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Basque councils back Vuelta return

There has been widespread and enthusiastic support within the Basque Country for the proposal to return the Vuelta a España to the region for the first time since 1978. Most importantly, the mayors in Bilbao and Vitoria, the two Basque cities mooted for stage finishes during the 2011 Vuelta, have declared their support for the project. However, both mayors admitted that the respective city councils would have to debate the proposal before final approval could be given.

Bilbao mayor Iñaki Azkuna, writing on his Facebook page while on holiday, said that he had been pushing for the Basque Country to host major sporting events such as the Vuelta or Tour de France for a decade. Speaking to El Correo, Bilbao’s representative for sporting affairs, Jon Sustatxa, also offered his backing, saying: “In principle, all sporting events of this magnitude are positive for Bilbao and will be generate money in the local economy. But what matters most is the way in which the city will be able to promote itself.”

Vitoria’s mayor, Patxi Lazcoz, was cautious in his comments, telling El Correo: “We’ve still not been told how much hosting a stage might cost us. But when we get an official proposal we will discuss and evaluate it.” But he described the prospect of the Vuelta’s return to the city for the first time since 1972 as a “fantastic dream”.

He added: “The Basque Country is a land of cyclists and there will be many fans of the sport who will be relishing the arrival of a race like this.” Lazcoz also emphasized the economic benefits the Vuelta is likely to bring to Vitoria.

Miguel Madariaga, former manager of the Euskaltel-Euskadi team and now president of the Fundación Euskadi that promotes cycling in the region, also welcomed the prospect of the Vuelta’s return. “It’s good for cycling… our fans and our members are sure to be happy to see our riders on home roads,” said Madariaga.

Footon-Servetto’s Basque DS Josean Fernández Matxin described the news as “very good for everyone, because it’s clear there has been a desire for the Vuelta to return to the Basque Country”. Referring to possible political questions that could arise as a result of the Vuelta’s return to the region, Matxin said he believed there wouldn’t be any problems and added his hope that the race would take in some of the Basque Country’s mythical climbs “such as the Urkiola, Orduña or Santo Domingo”.

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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).